Sunday, 20 December 2009

First Nations/Aboriginal Fridays - Crazy Dave by Basil Johnston

None of us live in isolation. We live with our families and our communities. We also live in our wider country. At each level we need trust and respect, when we don't have that we end up with troubles. When we are different from our neighbours that can either present trouble or opportunities.

Basil Johnston's Uncle David was born around 1920 with Down's Syndrome. According to the book, he might have been the first member living at the Cape Croker reserve with this condition. No one knew for sure what David understood and what his capacity for learning was. His brothers taught him certain life skills including wood chopping. While his family had limited understanding of what he would try to convey to them, others on the reserve didn't.

His mother Rosa spent her life caring for her youngest son. she was always worried with how he would cope, how others on the reserve would treat him, and what would happen to him when she passed away.

Because he was different, David wasn't always treated well. The Priest and the Indian Agent wanted him sent away, yet they didn't attempt to meet and understand David. He was condemned on the basis of assumption and ignorance.

It's unfortunate that peoples and populations around the world are still treated in this same manner. If they are different, then they must be bad/sick/criminal/contagious/etc.

I hadn't intended to read this whole book. I thought I would skim it and include a brief review, but once I started reading and got past the first 50 or so pages I found that I couldn't put it down. I had to read more and learn about David and his family. I laughed when David was trying to lead the mother skunk and her kits to his house and I cried when he was mistaken for a Japanese soldier. I didn't want the story to end, I want to learn more about David and his too short life. Thank-you to Basil Johnston for sharing the story not only of his Uncle but of his family and his reserve.

If you want to learn more about this book, visit 'Rambles: a cultural arts magazine'

I have also reviewed The Manitous: The Spiritual World of the Ojibway by Basil Johnston

By Canoe & Moccasin: Some Native Place Names of the Great Lakes by Basil H. Johnston


Dorte H said...

Thank you for a fine review. It is certainly not the only culture that has been suspicious towards people who are different.

Teddy Rose said...

Great review! I use to work with people with developmental disabilities. Dave was fortunate to have a mother that didn't give up on him. Most families use to give there children up to institutions. They thought they were doing the best for their children but usually it made things worse for them.